Very Rev. Michael Canon Downey was born at Jenkinstown, Co.
Kilkenny, on 20th August, 1896, and was ordained priest on 14th
August, 1921. He passed the whole of his priestly life in the
Deanery of St. Ninian, where he served in the three parishes
of Stirling, Bonnybridge and Kilsyth. Canon Downey ministered
here at St Patrick’s Kilsyth from 1938 till his death
on 24th December, 1955.
His first concern was to improve the amenities of the Parish,
and was responsible for the construction of the present presbytery.
At that time it was thought that the ground occupied by the
former presbytery could be used to extend the church by adding
a new aisle to balance the one built in Canon Turner's time.
An outbreak of fire in the church at the beginning of September,
1954, changed his former plans, and it was decided that a new
church should be built.
Sporting activities in the parish had been carried on in the
Haugh Park under the auspices of the Emmet Football Club. This
field was quite inadequate for the purpose, and Canon Downey
decided to extend it. He acquired this ground and the adjoining
Garrell Vale Park which had housed Kilsyth Rangers F.C. in the
pre-war years, and set about building the present St.
Patrick's Sportsfield, which was one of the finest sports
grounds in the county. The old fields had been very low-lying
and required to be raised and this was accomplished by in-filling
with 100,000 tons of pit debris which raised the surface level.
The whole area, extending to over four acres, was enclosed by
a wall eight feet high. This provided space for a full-sized,
turfed football pitch, a smaller ash-covered pitch, two tennis
courts, a bandstand, and dressing accommodation for each sport.
Canon Downey did not live to see the whole scheme completed,
and after his death the committee honoured his intentions to
have permanent dressing accommodation and built the present
pavilion which was opened officially by Mr. Harry Sullivan on
11th September, 1963. Canon Downey's love of golf and his encouragement
to other would-be golfers among the youth of the parish is reflected
in the growing interest of many young men in this sport at that
time. In recent years (starting in 2006) an annual golf tournament
at Kilsyth Lennox Golf Club has bourn the name ‘The
Canon Michael Downey Memorial Golf Tournament’ in
honour of his memory.
Canon Downey was also active on the Education Committee of
the County of Stirling from 1944 till he died.
His death on Christmas Eve 1955 brought to an end a long period
of ill-health which Canon Downey had borne with a resignation
and patience equaled only by his diligent attention to his priestly
duties and his determination to build a church more worthy of
the Blessed Sacrament and of his congregation – an ambition
that was ultimately to be fulfilled by his successor as Parish
priest of Kilsyth, Thomas Canon McGarvie.
Downey's Prayer Card
Canon Downey & Canon McGarvey's Headstone
in the Parish
on any picture to see a larger image
on any image to get a larger picture
This picture was taken sometime
between 1948 and 1955 and it shows a procession from
the Parish House to the old St Patrick's church. The
Parish priest is Canon Downey in front of him are the
2 assistant priests Fr.
closest to the camera with Fr.
beside him, a little obscured. The 6 Altar
boys are from back to front - William McGuire, Joseph
Clinton, Peter Canavan, Hugh Armstrong, Pat Harvey and
Click on any
picture to see a larger image
This picture was taken in 1947 at
the wedding of Frank Millar and Ellen Waters. It shows
rear left Fr Thomas
, rear right Canon Michael Downey. In
the front row Eddie Waters, best man, Frank Millar,
groom, Ellen Waters, bride and Mrs Nan Johnstone (nee
Courtsey of Catherine McGrath.